Mike Watson’s March Madness Preview
One of the most exciting events in sports goes into full swing on Thursday, March 19, 2009 – the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship (March Madness for those living under a rock). Alongside the chaos that is cheering on your alma mater, pulling for the Cinderella story, and calling into work to watch your favorite team play comes the often discussed “Bracket Challenge”. Whether you’re bragging about your awesome choices to your friends or to your coworkers, every Joe Schmoe attempts to out decision-make the professional sporting analysts and pick the best possible solutions to the winner of each game leading all the way towards a crowned NCAA National Champion.
I would be lying if I said that I watched the Portland State, Binghamton, or Cornell basketball programs closely this year. I must say that as a sports fan, however, I do love rolling into March knowing that people will undoubtedly be putting their theories together. I actually enjoy hearing how people have the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks magically making it to the Elite 8 and how Danny Kaspar is the second coming of Dean Smith.
With that said, I have decided to make a list of 8 teams currently seeded within the 64* (pending the play-in game) I feel will make a legitimate run OR…experience an epic fail.
Top 4 Busts
1. Utah – Do not let the Mountain West title and 5th seed in the Midwest fool you. The Utes football team should have battled for the National Championship last year, but their basketball team is terribly overrated and should have been seeded way lower. Crushing Air Force does not make up for losing to Southwest Baptist.
2. Purdue – If I had to pick a conference that I follow closest, I would have to say the Big Ten takes the cake. With this said, you must understand that I go into every March expecting at least half of the Big Ten teams to get into the dance and for ALL of the teams to get crushed by a nobody. Although Purdue had a few big wins this year including a throttling of Michigan State at home, we must not forget that Purdue lost their only two of three non-conference games against ranked teams. Also, the Big Ten has a tendency to be the team that faces a Cinderella team and loses. Go Mississippi State!
3. Marquette – I have heard nothing but great things about the Marquette Golden Eagles. Their coaching staff, their players, and all of their fans seem like really great people. Unfortunately, losing Dominic James and going into the tournament winning 1/5 games (including 4 consecutive loses to ranked teams) leads me to believe that Marquette’s nice story will reach an early demise. Look for the sexy Missouri Tigers to knock off the Golden Eagles.
4. Duke – Duke won the ACC crown this year and, just like seemingly every year this decade, the Blue Devils have been ranked as a very high seed. I don’t know if I would consider an early season loss to Michigan as a huge disappointment, but losses at Wake Forest, North Carolina, and being annihilated at Clemson all give me reason to believe that 2009 will be yet another year that Duke comes in as the sexy pick and faces another earlier-than-expected demise. I’m sorry, Coach K. Maybe next year?
Top 4 Teams to Watch
1. Oklahoma – BOOMER! Oklahoma finished with a record similar to the other top seeded teams within the tournament. The difference maker? Player of the year Blake “I could probably dunk from half court if I really wanted to” Griffin. Aside from the fact that all of their losses were within 10 points, Griffin missed the games against Texas and Kansas. Having Griffin against both teams would have made a huge difference and, now that he is healthy, I am riding the Sooners to Detroit.
2. Villanova – Villanova’s last loss came to the hands of Rick Pitino and the white hot Louisville Cardinals. Despite this loss, Villanova had huge victories in the last month and a half of the season including the destruction of Pittsburgh (Ranked 3), Syracuse (Ranked 20), and Marquette (Ranked 10). The East is the weakest conference as far as I’m concerned and I don’t know if any teams will be able to defend their outside game.
3. Wake Forest – Ranked as a 4th seed in the Midwest, Wake Forest’s high powered offense may not face a legitimate threat until Louisville. After reviewing their win/loss record, Wake Forest won 5/6 games against ranked teams including North Carolina (Ranked 3) and Duke (Ranked 1). Wake Forest loves to knock off the big dogs so the Cardinals better be on the look out.
4. Missouri – Missouri upset Oklahoma (Ranked 4) and officially capped a perfect home record by doing so. The Tigers also won their first Big 12 tournament last Saturday against Baylor. Missouri has experienced tons of success in both Men’s Basketball and Football in recent years and should continue to be a threat for awhile.